John Wesley used to exhort the early Methodist circuit riders to “Read, or get out of the ministry.” Severe? Perhaps, but I’m convinced that reading is an absolute essential to discipleship. We are called, after all, to be lifelong learners; disciples of the Kingdom never master the curriculum. There will always be more.
Francis Schaeffer says “True education requires thinking across the various disciplines, and not just being qualified in one particular field”. Evangelicals are the worst at this. We are often “experts” in evangelicalism and ignorant of history, philosophy, art, culture and government. Thus, one of the greatest failures of today’s church is our abandonment of the Christian mind. “My people are destroyed through lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6). Because we have abandoned the call to love God with our minds, we have stalled the advance of the Kingdom, and fallen into cultural damage-control. We’ve become mental midgets facing the end of the world as we know it.
The apostle Paul, with his sterling credentials asked Timothy to “bring the books” when he came. (2 Timothy 4:13). What books? We don’t know, but we do know from reading his epistles that the apostle had a thorough grasp of history, law, culture, philosophy, and poetry. “All things are Thy servants”, David wrote in Psalm 119. “All things”. If we have discerning hearts, we will see God’s truth embedded everywhere, from nature, mathematics, and beauty, to stories, literature, and poetry.
Saint Athanasius reminded the fourth century believers, “You will not see anyone who is truly striving after spiritual advancement who is not given to spiritual reading.” If I could encourage young disciples of Jesus with one discipline, it would be to read! (Well… to read, and to PRAY!!) We ought to read broadly, read critically, read with discernment, and read with humility.
Here’s a link to a cross-section of books which have shaped my worldview and my walk with Jesus. Perhaps you have your own favorites you could share in the comments section. A good book recommendation can change a life and open a whole new world!